In April of last year two people were hit and killed by drivers while trying to walk across Northeast 82nd at Alberta. As the most popular route between a busy motel and a neighborhood market, the intersection is very dangerous. Speeds on 82nd (an Oregon Department of Transportation-controlled “orphan highway”) are high, the road is straight and not well-lit, and a slight downhill to the north creates a wide-open feeling for drivers that seems to encourage a lack of caution and care for others.
After Stephen Looser and Anthony Tolliver were killed, ODOT faced stiff pressure to do something — anything — to make the crossing safer. Elected officials called for emergency interventions and activists held a rally to draw attention to the ticking time bomb in ODOT’s hands. A few weeks after the deaths, ODOT lowered the speed limit and promised additional funding to create a safer crossing.
In September ODOT crews built a new crossing treatment at the south end of the intersection. They broke up the curb to make a ramp, installed a yellow “people crossing” sign, and screwed in $9,000 worth of plastic posts and curbs to create a median island.
When I shared a short video of this on Instagram on Monday, some readers were unimpressed. “That seems like it’s a tiny marginal improvement and that so much more must be done,” typed one commenter. “In order to get to the island you have to frogged [frogger] across 2 lanes of 45 mph traffic…This is not making it any better but possibly not making it much worse,” said another.
I reached out to ODOT Region 1 Public Information Officer Don Hamilton to learn more.
He said what’s on the street now is just a temporary update that was put in place quickly last fall before the construction window closed for the year. “The second phase is now in design with construction scheduled to take place this summer. The final design will include a flashing pedestrian crossing beacon, new ADA ramps, and a concrete median island,” Hamilton shared.
“We recognize the need for further improvements at this location,” he added.
We’ll be watching.
Even though ODOT and the City of Portland have finally agreed to transfer control of 82nd, we cannot wait for that funding and planning to be completed before we take immediate measures to protect people who use this street.